One thing that has really stood out to me during my journey with chronic pain and PTSD is that it can often be really hard to focus on the positives in life. When it feels like your body has turned traitor and you are in a constant “fight or flight” mindset… it feels like nothing ever goes your way. Even then things started going my way, I distinctly recall the feeling that I was just one step away from everything falling apart all over again.
Keep calm and… nevermind
These are two words I honestly couldn’t associate with before the last year. Something happened around March last year when I turned a corner with my counseling. It was just the first corner of many (trust me, I know there are still so many yet ahead) but for the first time, I started to have moments where I was absolutely at peace. I think the first that I honestly felt was when I was out on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation last summer.
There is something incredibly healing about the Black Hills of South Dakota, from the climate to it’s stunning beauty. Something about being out there makes my heart swell, and I feel an unexplained feeling that this is where I need to be in that moment. During that last trip, I was facing not only a completely new experience, but facing many triggers buried in my memories of the Black Hills.
During that trip, I saw a level of need I had never experienced. Not being able to help those children more than providing a hot meal and a warm hug broke me inside, and those emotions tangled with my own conflicted and vulnerable feelings finally hit a tidal wave crescendo one night. Instead of spending time with my companions at the Dream Center, I wandered over to the playground and sat on the swings in the dark, looking out over the Badlands to a nearly full moon and cried my heart out. I know, it sounds totally dramatic, but I am a full believer in the healing power of a good cathartic cry.
Recognizing peace for what it is
Now, I certainly didn’t stop having panic attacks or feelings of anxiety… since then I have had some panic attacks that rank up there with the worst of them. I did, however, find that I was better able to start challenging those thoughts of anxiety, or at least be able to appreciate the moment. I had a blissful moment this morning where I had just pulled out my balcony table and chairs and enjoyed coffee in the light spring breeze. I was incredibly grateful in that moment, and realized what peace was… the mindset of thankfulness. For me, the opposite of anxiety… is gratitude.
With that, I decided to start a gratitude journal. Its something that is quite in vogue at the moment, but there is power in writing things down, pen to paper. And once the words started, I very quickly filled the first page. So many things to be thankful for… my moment this morning with the blissful absence of the anxiety that clenches my heart, the realization that I have lived with Damir successfully for the last year (I never thought I could share a home with someone I was in a relationship with… the idea had been so terrifying before, yet now I wouldn’t have it any other way.)
So my new venture, for a while at least is to spend a few minutes each morning writing in this journal with the hopes it will help me keep a positive outlook on the rest of the day, no matter how hectic my morning. What are you thankful for today?